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If your video doesn’t capture audiences in 10 seconds, you’re losing engagement

Twenty years ago we were more than willing to sit patiently through the first three minutes of our cousin’s self-made high school video and see the fluorescent words rolling unsteadily over the black screen.
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Twenty years ago we were more than willing to sit patiently through the first three minutes of our cousin’s self-made high school video and see the fluorescent words rolling unsteadily over the black screen.

Now, we aren’t so patient.

Marketers are particularly incentivized to examine viewer trends and discover the ideal recipe for a powerful video. According to most scientists, the digital age has left humans with a significant loss of attention. Before the mobile revolution, around the century’s turn, we were still able to stay focused during 12 seconds. Now that it is shortened to eight seconds, trending ever closer to that of a goldfish.

Though some studies nuance this statement, arguing that Millennials are just more effective in shifting through unnecessary information. That would mean they don’t have a shorter attention span, but they are just more ergonomic with their attention, eliminating all of the fluff and willing to get to the point.

Whether it is due to a short attention span or to a growing need to get quickly to the point, the fact is that we all have less patience for mediocre videos.

Studies reveal that marketers have just 10 seconds to grab an audience and call them to action. After these 10 seconds, the engagement drops off significantly. The axe falls. And the audience will continue to scroll down or click away.

After 30 seconds the statistics are even more relentless. If by then you have not been able to fully engage your audience, you’ve likely lost 33% of viewers. After one minute, 45% of viewers have stopped watching.

No wonder 56% of all videos published in the last year is less than 2 minutes long. Nine out of 10 of the most watched Facebook videos are under 2 minutes. The majority floats around one minute.

Vijay Koduri

“In a world where Millennials are inundated with messages from thousands of products online, you have to cut to the point. They expect short, well-made videos that convey the vital information and nothing else. The old sales and marketing tactics with brochures, long videos, and long websites are long outdated,” said Vijay Koduri, co-founder of HashCut.

Hashcut lets fan easily create video highlights across sports, media, and YouTube, and is part of UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck accelerator.

Length depends on which platform your audience is watching. Brand marketers might have to consider customizing video length for each platform. Facebook’s auto-playback feature makes 30- to 45-second videos optimal. Instagram has a larger demand for  “micro-videos” that are 15 seconds or less.

If your content is hosted on YouTube, however, viewers are more tolerant for longer videos with a documentary-style, upwards of two minutes. The average length of a YouTube video is 4 minutes, Studies show that the engagement of a 4-minute versus a 10-minute video is not significantly different. However, the initial drop off is high as viewers seem to decide quickly whether or not to watch.

This leads to the obvious conclusion that the average YouTube video, when shared on social media, is too long to be successfully consumed.

11 Comments

  1. It’s not just about attention span and patience, it’s also about time. Most of us have little free time available and there are numerous things to do during that time.

    Thousands of videos, movies, games, people to talk with, etc. No wonder that our attention span is so short on what we’ll watch and what not.

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Kwinten Wouters
Kwinten is a Belgian social-cultural worker, living in Colombia. He has worked for some NGOs in Latin America. He likes John Steinbeck, Belgian soccer players in the Premier League and looking at salsa.